Measuring tanks was a daunting task
This agrochemical company supplies high-quality agricultural chemicals, fertilizers, seed treatments, and biological nutrition to farms. This bustling plant has over 150 stainless steel tanks, most ranging from 20 to 30 feet tall.
Measurements needed to be more frequent
Tracking tank levels was done by measuring one tank at a time. They some tanks and take a manual measurement and write it down. Others were measured using a battery-powered laser and a mesh network that took readings once or twice a day. Some tank levels were tracked on a whiteboard with a Sharpie. The old system provided a limited number of tank readings, so the level of a tank may have changed before the measurement was recorded.
Climbing was dangerous
The slippery, stainless steel tanks don’t have attached ladders, creating a safety hazard and a risk of falling. On top of that, some chemicals emit dangerous fumes when tanks are opened for level measurement.
Inventory turns rapidly
The pace of work is non-stop with incoming and outbound deliveries of chemicals. Plant personnel was hustling to meet the demands of local farmers. Purchasers were scrambling to keep up with orders and deliveries. Blending operations needed inventory constantly updated to be sure they have chemicals in stock. Inventory turnover is very high, especially seasonally when chemicals move in and out very rapidly.
Sensors automated measurement
Compact non-contact radar level sensors were installed to automate tank level measurement. These sensors are made of chemical-resistant plastic and designed for measuring liquids that can be corrosive, harsh, or aggressive. Levels are accurate within 0.2” and updated continuously without manpower. Employees get continuous readings and are not flying blind between manual measurements. The system started by installing sensors on 36 of the most critical tanks. The system is easily scalable to all 150 tanks as the plant plans to expand the solution to more tanks.
Current inventory is always on the network
Instead of writing down measurements, live data is sent to the on-site Binventory® software program, where it is accessed by purchasing and production personnel. Their 6 computers are all networked within the operation, so everyone sees the same inventory at the same time.
How inventory was transformed
- • They stopped manually measuring tanks.
- • The inventory was updated without anyone manually doing it.
- • Occupational safety risks are reduced by eliminating climbing tanks and fume exposure.
- • Tanks are sorted by chemicals in the software, so they know how much of each is on hand.
- • Inventory can be accessed on any of the networked computers.
- • Everyone sees the same data and it is updated constantly.
- • They can view or run reports whenever they need them, to know what’s getting low.
- • Blending can count on having the chemicals they need on hand.
- • Less stress for purchasing and suppliers with fewer last-minute orders.
• Ordering got easier, knowing how much to order and when it’s needed. Time-taking inventory was cut by 75%. Delivery schedules got more efficient with fewer emergencies, reducing costs. Shorter lead times and fewer out-of-stocks improve customer satisfaction.
Alternatives for the future
Instead of Binventory installed on a local network, the plant could move to BinView, built on the BinCloud platform. This would put inventory in the Cloud, which is convenient if there are multiple sites and remote access is needed. BinView can be accessed from a phone, tablet, or PC, making it portable and accessible when off-site. BinCloud is also convenient for coops with many different types of grains, feeds, ingredients, chemicals, and fuels that need to be monitored
Improved scheduling and product management
The production team blending chemicals can be assured they have all the different ingredients they need for each blend in stock. Purchasing is ordering material all day long every day, now that they have current inventory at their fingertips.